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Mike Groll/AP
New York Gov. David Paterson, left, and Charles O'Byrne, chief of staff.

Paterson Aide Resigns After Tax Scandal

October 24, 2008 06:20 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Charles J. O’Byrne, the chief of staff for N.Y. Gov. David Paterson, has resigned after he admitted didn’t pay taxes for five years due to a mental disorder.

Paterson Aide Resigns

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Reports in The New York Times and New York Post say that Charles J. O’Byrne has resigned as chief of staff for N.Y. Gov. David Paterson, less than a week after the Post reported that he owed hundreds of thousands in back taxes. O’Byrne’s lawyers had claimed that he suffered from clinical depression and “non-filer syndrome,” a disorder that prevented him from filing and disclosing his taxes properly each year.

The Post reports that he “resigned under pressure,” though The Times writes, “It was not immediately clear if Mr. O’Byrne had resigned of his own accord or was being pushed out by the Paterson administration.”

The Times published a statement by state Senate majority leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, who indicated that O’Byrne had been forced out. “By removing his Chief of Staff Charles O’Byrne, Governor Paterson took appropriate action today to show that no one, even those serving at the highest levels of government, is above the law,” he said.

Gov. Paterson has yet to comment on O’Byrne’s resignation, though he had defended O’Byrne during the week. Paterson has suffered several embarrassments since assuming the governorship on March 17, 2008, following the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Background: O'Byrne claims ‘non-filer syndrome’

On Saturday, Oct. 18, the New York Post broke the story that O'Byrne owed more than $200,000 in back taxes. According to the Post, O’Byrne didn’t file tax returns for the tax years of 2001 through 2005 because of a mental illness.

O'Byrne later admitted that he owed $300,000, but had recently paid it off. The New York Daily News reported that he made his final payment on Tuesday for $3,641.85.

O’Byrne has previously blamed depression for his tax-filing problems, though his attorney, Richard Kestenbaum, said that O’Byrne suffers from “non-filer syndrome” and explained that “many times that causes them not to be able to file their tax returns.”
Some tax professionals were amused by the idea . One accountant was quoted as saying, "Yes, it's quite common. A hundred percent of my clients suffer from this syndrome, and it gets especially bad every year as April 15th approaches."

“Late-filing syndrome,” also called “non-filing syndrome” or “failure-to-file syndrome,” is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize it as a psychiatric condition, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

Gov. Paterson admitted on Wednesday that he had asked for an investigation of O’Byrne’s taxes in April. O’Byrne has taken loans from friends and family members to pay back his debts and has sold tens of thousands of dollars in personal assets.

Since becoming governor, Mr. Paterson has faced a series of personal setbacks. After releasing his 2007 tax returns, Paterson was criticized for giving the smallest amount of money to charity of any statewide elected official: the governor and his wife claimed a charitable deduction of $150 worth of clothes donated to the Salvation Army.

Gov. Paterson also admitted to having an extramarital affair during a difficult period in his marriage.

Related Topic: The ‘Twinkie defense’

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